Group working to build mid-Missouri Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
COLUMBIA - After realizing the underrepresentation of Hispanic business owners in mid-Missouri, three Hispanic professionals established a group of 12 members to bring more diversity.
Abel Rios, Pedro Guerrero and Wadi Rodriguez formed the group with the long-term goal of creating a Hispanic Chamber of Commerce as either a sub-group of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, or as its own group.
Despite being one of the smallest populations in Missouri, the Hispanic community continues to grow.
In Boone County alone, the population has grown a little over 22 percent from 2010 to 2017 according to the Missouri Census Data Center.
Wadi Rodriguez, a Hispanic businessman, said the goal of the group is to empower local Latino business owners and entrepreneurs.
“Basically number one is empowering the Latino community, also have if possible a spot on the table where we can represent and be represented and also a sustainable movement that is not about Wadi or Abel, it's about the community,” Rodriguez said.
The group is working with the Columbia Chamber of Commerce to achieve its goals.
Columbia Chamber of Commerce President, Matt McCormick, said the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce would provide the opportunity to build relationships.
"The core issue is making sure that all businesses are successful and they all have that path to be successful," McCormick said. "How are we making sure that we are doing that for everyone?"
He said the potential future of a Hispanic Chamber of Commerce looks promising.
"We're starting to meet more and starting to take a look at 'What does this look like and what can this look like?'" McCormick said.
"There really isn't anything like this in mid-Missouri but if you travel to St. Louis and Kansas City, there's a lot of support for Hispanics because they both have their own Chamber of Commerce," Rios said.
The program will also focus on local businesses owned by Hispanic women and try to bring awareness to those businesses.
“In the Latino community, women are leading the way basically and La Terraza is a good example of a woman-owned business," Rodriguez said.
La Siesta and La Terraza are examples of Hispanic businesses in Columbia that have showed interest in the idea of this program.
"People can come out of the shadows," Rodriguez said. "There's a lot of information out there, out of the Chamber of Commerce and other groups, where people who want to start a business can learn."
Rodriguez said the group is currently working in Boone and Cole County, but if it successfully creates a Hispanic Chamber of Commerce it will plan to expand throughout mid-Missouri.
The group will meet next on Nov. 4 to determine the next steps in moving this program forward.